Thanks to the food, setting, staff, ownership or a combination thereof, Good Company seems to have cracked the conundrum that cursed its predecessor. Over the course of a year and a half, Vita Urbana never managed to gain traction at its Battery Park home, with representatives casually assigning blame to its off-the-beaten-path location on their way out the door. Since its replacement opened two months back, the opposite has been true, with diners eager to beat a path to the very same door.
The main objective of a neighborhood bar is to convince said neighborhood to patronize said bar. Good Company appears to be doing that by offering tasty, unfussy food at prices that don't compete with the steep mortgage payments of nearby residents. Vegans and vegetarians are accommodated with various meat-free options, while parents of young children feel appreciated thanks to a menu dedicated to shorties. Solo flyers on up to big groups are offered sanctuary in a variety of seating options, from bar to booth. That Good Company manages to do all of this in a stylish, contemporary setting is proof that stereotypes are ripe for busting.
A colorful menu scripted in a playful, retro-chic font is a diner's first clue that this isn't your average corner pub. The placemat-size roster is populated by familiar-sounding foods like wings, potato skins, burgers, fries and milkshakes. But in contrast to the freezer-to-fryer foods that dominate the genre, Good Company, which is owned and operated by the team behind the Plum in Ohio City, makes all but a few items from scratch.
Wings ($7) come five to an order and possess the ideal texture: supple meat that's easily separated from the bones, fully cooked but not overdone. The cut wings are augmented by wet sauces like an aromatic, slightly sweet Asian barbecue glaze or dry rubs like punchy pepper dust. Brined and beer-battered celery root ($9) is further proof that you can deep fry almost anything and improve its standing. The vegan wedges are hot, crisp and pleasantly vegetal. Ours came coated in a citrusy, spicy black pepper rub.
Good Company is making the case for a potato-skin renaissance. The best of the breed feature a crispy skin-on exterior and a generous layer of fluffy potato flesh supporting the fillings. The twice-baked skins ($5) here do just that. One version is topped with a creamy, savory mixture of ground sausage, cheese and fried onions. The other, a vegan construction, is filled with a mash or paste that faintly resembles cheese while provoking a longing for the version that does contain cheese.
If you haven't noticed, the patty pendulum has swung away from thick pub-style hamburgers and to the now-ubiquitous "smash" burger. In terms of bang for one's buck, Good Company's Good Boi is breaking away from the pack. Available as a single or double ($6, $8), the thin-pattied burgers appear small but possess an outsized richness and depth of flavor that almost makes them a challenge to finish. Tucked into a pillow-soft milk bun with white American cheese, grilled onions, shredded lettuce, house pickles and special sauce, they are fast becoming required eating.
Other "burgers" swap the beef patties for ground chicken ($9), breaded chickpeas ($9) and mushrooms ($9). That last one promotes what is normally a burger topping to the status of full-fledged burger. Assuming you love the earthy, umami-rich flavor and texture of sauteed mushrooms, it mostly works. Four bucks buys you a bag of addictive fries, made from locally grown Kennebec spuds (which accounts for their inconsistent size).
It doesn't take long to recognize the limited nature of the menu. When we say Good Company serves wings, potato skins, burgers, fries and milkshakes, we're not being illustrative, we're being literal. When you discount the kid's menu, there are only about a dozen items, many of which are vegan or vegetarian versions of a similar item. Outliers include a salty but delicious fried bologna sandwich ($10), served cheesesteak style in a fresh-baked hoagie bun, and a surprisingly light but oh-so-satisfying Italian sub ($10) with zesty peppers. There's a bountiful chopped salad, a grain bowl starring oat berries and a trio of desserts.
To drink there are craft (and macro) beers, 10 wines by the glass and bottle, and enough classic and signature cocktails to satisfy all but the most demanding spirits snobs. Here too prices are at or below the competition, with beers costing $3 to $5.50, wines $7 to $9 and cocktails $9.
Construction crews made a few changes to the interior that enhanced it functionally and aesthetically. Walls were erected to transform a rambling retail space in the rear into an intimately proportioned dining room. Up front, tables and chairs have been swapped out for sleek custom-built booths. A bountiful crop of (muted) TVs reminds us that this is still a Cleveland bar, albeit a new-fashioned one.